President Donald Trump brought nearly 9,000 people out to Charlotte as one stop on his presidential campaign to endorse Republican representatives Mark Harris and Ted Budd.
Trump pitted the crowd against the media, immigration and Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader. He knew exactly the right words to say to get the crowd to in chant in unison: “CNN sucks!”
Budd is up against Democrat Kathy Manning for a house seat in District 13, and Harris is facing Dan McCready (D) and Jeff Scott (L) for a congressional seat in District 9. Mecklenburg county, encompassing cities like Charlotte, Huntersville and Davidson, remains a blue county despite the large crowd.
Immigration is an important issue in Mecklenburg county and the surrounding areas. According to the North Carolina Justice Center, 13.6 percent of North Carolinians in Mecklenburg County were immigrants in 2013. The department projects that this number has likely gone up.
“Build the wall” and “finish the wall” chants were crowd favorites. Mecklenburg county was the first county in North Carolina to partner with ICE’s controversial 287(g) program in 2006. The second county to adopt the program was Alamance, where Elon University is located, in 2006.
Both Mecklenburg county and Alamance county have federal holding facilities for immigrants, where one study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill says could cost up to $5.5 million. This makes immigration a primary voter topic for midterms for Alamance and Mecklenburg counties. Trump speaks to this issue, and said at the rally that Republicans Harris and Budd would secure the border. His crowd cheered.
Sheriff departments in seven counties in North Carolina participate in the Jail Enforcement Model (JEM) through the 287(g) article. Through this model, the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association said, “[S]heriffs screen for illegal aliens only among people arrested and brought to the county’s detention center.”
Trump praised law enforcement during his speech repeatedly, especially with handling the pipe-bomber.
The day of the rally, Cesar Sayoc, 56, of Florida, was identified as the man accused of sending pipe bombs to key political figures, CNN headquarters in New York and George Soros. The man was a graduate of University of North Carolina at Charlotte, according to the Associated Press. The coliseum where the rally was held was only 12 miles from UNCC.
The AP described Sayoc as having a “fervor” for the president. The white minivan that officials suspect Sayoc made the bombs in was covered in Trump paraphernalia. Trump did not back down, however, on his attacks on the Democrats and the press that night.
When addressing the bomber at the rally, Trump did not use his name. He praised the FBI and authorities for catching the “needle in the haystack” and called for the country to come together and better national attitudes.
After asking for more positivity, Trump blamed CNN for bad reporting and a series of “CNN sucks” chants broke out. The crowd turned from the president to the press box and chanted for about 30 seconds, directly contradicting his calls for peace moments earlier.
Reporters Brian Rea and Alexandra Roat contributed to this reporting.